SEO Over Optimization Can Eventually Hurt Your Rankings

SEO Over Optimization Can Eventually Hurt Your Rankings

SEOs for almost a decade have been using the term “over optimization” for one reason why a site might start to not do well in the Google search results. Some call it the over optimization penalty. Well, Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that over optimization exists and can hurt your rankings.

Gary said on Twitter that over optimization is “totally a thing.” He said that “it is literally optimizing so much that eventually it starts hurting.”

Where does this come into play? Gary didn’t say but think about over doing it with links (Penguin) or spreading out too many pages with tons of keyword variations (Panda). You see the point?

Is there something specific that looks for over SEOing a site in Google? Well, probably many algorithms do that on some level.

How safe is iMessage in the cloud?

How safe is iMessage in the cloud?

Apple says iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra will store your iMessages in iCloud. That could be good, if done properly to secure your privacy.

Of all the problems iMessage has, Apple says it plans to solve a persistent one: having access to all your conversations on every device, instead of messages and data lying scattered across all the Macs, iPhones, and iPads you use. But is this the right problem to solve?

Apple’s Craig Federighi explained at the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference that iMessage will be stored in iCloud with “end-to-end encryption,” but provided no other details. Later, he mentioned that Siri training will sync across iCloud instead of being siloed on each of your Apple devices, and that training and marking faces in Photos’ People album will do the same—and with end-to-end encryption.

Despite that encryption promise, this concerns me. It’s better to have the least amount of personal and private information pass through other systems, instead of directly between two devices. It’s especially good to have the least amount of private data stored elsewhere, except if the encryption for that data is firmly under your control or fully independently vetted.

That storage issue is particularly problematic with iMessage. While Apple’s design for at-rest storage could be terrific, iMessage itself is way behind its competition in providing an effective, modern encryption model. Notably, if a party sniffs and records encrypted iMessage data from a privileged position and a later flaw allows the recovery of an encryption key, all previously encrypted data can be unlocked. The way to prevent that is using forward secrecy, which Signal’s OpenWhisper protocol employs in the Signal app and in WhatsApp.

privatei federighi keynote wwdc 2017 securityApple

Craig Federighi explains how Siri training syncs among devices using “end-to-end encryption.”

How it likely works

While I’ve queried Apple for more details on how all this will work, it’s likely they won’t provide any until closer to the OS updates or even afterwards. If you’re installing developer or public betas, you should consider how this might affect you without having all the details to hand.

Apple designed its iCloud Keychain sync in an admirable way. It uses a “zero knowledge” approach, which is the gold standard for hands-off data transfer and storage. With a cloud-storage system like Dropbox or how Apple hands email, contacts, calendars, photos, and other iCloud data, all information has an encryption overlay while in transit and another form of encryption at rest on the cloud servers.

However, that at-rest encryption lies under the control of the company offering the service. It possesses all the keys needed to lock your data on arrival and unlock it to transmit it back. Thus, it’s susceptible to internal misuse, hacking, legitimate government warrants, and extralegal government intrusion.

With iCloud Keychain and other similar syncing—such as that used by 1Password and LastPass, which I discussed in a recent column—a secret gets generated by software running only on client devices and that secret is stored only there. The company that runs the sync or storage service never has possession. Data is encrypted by the mobile or desktop OS and transmitted.

When multiple devices need access to the same pool of data, systems typically use device keys to encrypt a well-protected encryption key that in turn protects the data. (This is the approach used as far back as PGP in the 1990s.) That way, there’s a process to enroll and remove devices from the pool of legitimate ones that can access the actual data encryption key.

I fully expect this is what Apple is using: an expansion of iCloud Keychain to more kinds of data. iCloud Keychain has a sometimes funky enrollment process that, when it hiccups, can leave users adrift. I receive email every several weeks from those who have iOS iCloud Keychain errors that they can’t fix or permanently dismiss, even by un-enrolling and re-enrolling in that iCloud option.

But it’s the right way to do, when you consider the intensely personal information in text messages, Siri training data, and Photos facial-recognition and -tagging. Imagine someone gaining full access to all that in a form they could decode? (We’re not sure yet either whether that encrypted information will be created in such a way that it’s not useful without source data on devices, of course.)

When it rains, the cloud pours

It’s reasonable to worry about centrally stored and synced data, because it represents such a weak point in data protection. Given that Apple is stepping up the kind of data you can sync and store, it should also be upgrading its under-the-hood encryption techniques and disclosing more information about how it works. And it should submit its work to external independent auditing and provide more transparency to allow outsiders to monitor for government or third-party intrusion.

All of this can be done without compromising security; all of it would, in fact, dramatically improve the integrity of your data from outside examination. Apple’s stance on keeping our information unavailable to it is admirable. But it needs to give more assurances that nobody else could possibly access it either.

How to Free Up Space on Your iPhone or iPad

How to Free Up Space on Your iPhone or iPad

Is the storage full on your iOS device? Here’s how to figure out what’s taking up the most space so you can decide what to delete.
How much space is left on your iOS device? Do you hit a wall whenever you try to update your OS or download new apps? What’s the best way to move files you want to keep in order to free up space? And how can you make smart decisions about what to keep and what to delete? Follow these few simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to a less overloaded, more organized iPhone or iPad.

1. Check your total usage

Go to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage.

At the top, you’ll see sections for Used and Available space, which refer to the space on your iOS device. Below them, you’ll see your iCloud storage. For the purpose of this article, however, we’ll just focus on local storage.

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You don’t need to understand these numbers deeply, and there are no hard and fast rules about how much space you need to leave free on your device. If you simply want to have enough free space so that you can take new photos and install new apps without worrying about hitting an obstacle, give yourself at least 1GB of free space (1GB=1,024MB).

Note that when you add your available space and the used space, they won’t add up to the total size of your phone (e.g., a 16GB iPhone may appear to have only about 12.3GB total space) because it doesn’t include the space being used by the operating system.

2. Find apps taking up the most space

On the Storage & iCloud Usage Screen, tap Manage Storage. Here you’ll see a list of all your apps, in order of how much space they consume.

Select any app, and a new page shows the usage into two parts: the amount of space the app itself uses (in light gray at the top) and the space used by the app’s data and documents.

For example, my favorite podcasting app Downcast takes up 622MB total: 17.1MB for the app and 605MB for documents and data.

Sometimes, this information helps you see that it’s not the app that takes up so much space, but rather what you store in it. In my case, the Downcast app is listed first when I go to the Manage Storage page, meaning it is the app that takes up the most space of all my apps, so I know I can make big gains by getting rid of any excess data in it. And I have some options. I could listen to the podcasts that are saved in the app and delete them afterward. Or I could change my settings in the app so that new podcasts only download to my phone when I want to play them. Or I could change the settings to only stream podcasts with a video component and never download them.

3. Check your photo and video use

A lot of people find that the Photos & Camera app takes up a lot more space than they realized, so let’s deal with that app directly. Tap on it and you’ll see Photo Library and My Photo Stream. Right now, just focus on Photo Library, as that’s the space being used locally on your iPhone or iPad.

If you have more than 1GB here, you should consider copying photos and videos to another storage space so you can delete them from your iPhone and free up a lot of space.

If you have a Google account, an easy option here is Google Photos. Download the app, sign in and navigate to Settings > Back up & sync > and toggle Back up & sync to on. Make sure Google Photos has access to Photos (Settings > Google Photos > Photos) and then, every photo you take with your iPhone will be automatically backed up to Google Photos and accessible across your devices and on the web.

You can also offload your iPhone photos via Dropbox or any cloud-based syncing and storage service you like, such as Box, SugarSync, etc. Ideally you want the service to have a mobile upload feature in its iPhone app, as Dropbox does.

Once iPhone photos have uploaded to your cloud service of choice — double- and triple-check that they’re there — delete them from the Photos app. Then navigate to Albums > Recently Deleted. Tap Select, and then at the bottom tap Delete All. If you skip that last step, you won’t free up any space for a month, as your iOS device hangs onto deleted photos for 30 days, just in case you change your mind about deleting them.

Other apps that often take up a lot of space include music players, podcast players, Voice Memos and office apps. You probably want to keep the app itself, but you might be able to free up space by deleting files that are no longer relevant. To do so, open the app where they’re contained and remove them. In other words, you can’t delete them from the iPhone or iPad Settings area.

4. Wade out of the stream

Photo Stream is meant to be a seamless way to share photos across iOS devices. Activate it on your iPhones and iPads, and any time the devices are on the same Wi-Fi network, photos taken from one device, like your iPhone, will appear on the others, like your iPad.

It’s a handy feature, but the feature syncs the most recent 1,000 photos, so it can eat up space. If storing your photos on one device is enough for you, turn Photo Stream off. You can do this by going to Settings > Photos & Camera > Upload to My Photo Stream and toggle it off.

5. Target apps you don’t use

Go back to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Storage > Manage Storage. Scroll through the list of apps and look for apps you don’t use; it’s much easier to do this here than on your home screens, where apps are likely to be scattered across several pages and bunched into folders.

If you find apps you don’t need or only use in specific contexts — like travel apps — consider deleting them. Any app you’ve purchased in the past is always available for you to download again at no extra charge.

To delete apps, go to your iPhone or iPad’s home screen. Place your finger on an app you want to delete and hold (don’t press down on iPhone 6s and 7 or 3D Touch will activate). Apps will start to wiggle and a small X appears on each icon. Press the X, and confirm to delete. Press the home button to stop the wiggling.

6. Remove unwanted music

Multimedia, such as audio tracks and videos, takes up a lot of space. There are two ways to delete audio files and videos.

From Settings

Go to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage > Music. The next screen summarizes all the songs and albums you have stored on your phone.

Delete tracks you don’t listen to by swiping left. You can also use the Edit button (top right) to delete multiple tracks and albums in one shot. Both actions delete all the files associated with the entry or album.

If you want to put the music back on your device, open the Music app and go to Library. Find the song or album you want, tap it, and re-download it by tapping the cloud-arrow icon on the right.

From within the app

Open the Music app. Go to Library > Downloaded Music, where you’ll see music that’s stored locally and taking up space. If you want to delete an entire album, press on it and a pop-up menu will include a “Remove” option (pictured). You can do the same for specific songs within an album.

Consider streaming

If you want to have thousands of tracks at your disposal, use a music-streaming service like Spotify. If you’re a Premium subscriber, however, keep an eye on how much you download for offline use. Storing all those playlists on your device can quickly eat up space.

7. Get (rid of) the message

Unless you like to hang onto conversations for sentimental (or legal) reasons, delete all “running late” or “what do you want for dinner?” texts to free up some space. If you like to live dangerously, set texts to automatically delete. Go to Settings > Messages and choose to keep messages for 30 days or 1 year.

8. Empty your browser’s cache

One final smidgen of junk to wipe off your iPhone or iPad is the cache for the Safari web browser or other mobile web browsers you use. For Safari, go to Settings > Safari. Tap Clear History and Website Data.

For Chrome on iOS, open the app, tap the three dots on the top-right corner and select History. Then tap “Clear Browsing Data” to wipe everything out or “Edit” to erase specific sites. You can also navigate to Settings > Privacy > Clear Browsing Data, which will let you delete: browsing history; cookies and site data; cached images and files; saved passwords; and autofill data — or everything at once.

The web designer’s guide to Flexbox

The web designer’s guide to Flexbox

Learn how to create better CSS grid systems to easily centre, align, scale and reorder elements on your web page.

Have you started using the Flexible Box Layout module in your projects yet? Although the module has been around for some time, there have been two major barriers stopping frontend developers from using it in their projects.

First, until recently the spec was in flux and there wasn’t great support for it. Today, all modern browsers support Flexbox. The second barrier is that it is pretty tough to grasp the concept of Flexbox. While it is super-powerful, there are a lot of moving parts and it can be difficult to learn. But the ability to arrange page elements, and have them behave in a predictable way, across multiple screen sizes, is well worth the effort.

Want to get started with flexbox? Read on!

In this article, I will get you up and running with the fundamental concepts behind flexbox. Understanding these core concepts will open up a whole world of extremely flexible, easy to create layouts (especially for responsive web design).

Next-generation design

Flexbox is a next-generation tool to help you create layouts with CSS; whether you want to lay out a section of your website or display a grid of media elements. It enables you to easily align, centre, justify, scale and reorder elements on your page, without having to resort to nasty CSS hacks or fragile JavaScript dependencies.

Flexbox can replace floats, positioning tricks, inline-block layouts and even – shudder – table display layouts. If you have ever pulled your hair out wondering why some seemingly simple layouts were difficult or even impossible in CSS, you are going to love Flexbox.

Flex elements

The magic of Flexbox is in the relationship between the parent ‘flex container’ and the children ‘flex items’. In order to take full control of Flexbox, you must put aside any previous ideas of floats, positioning and clearing. This is a totally new way of laying out your page.

Setting display:flex; on a parent element turns it into a flex container, and all of its immediate children will be turned into flex items. Once you have your markup set up, you can use one of the many available flex properties to create a layout.

Note: any of the HTML elements can be a flex container or flex item. Any :before and :after pseudo-elements you have on your flex container will be treated as children, and therefore first-class flex items.

Rows and columns

Fig 1  The default flex direction set to row

The default flex-direction set to row

There are two axes in Flexbox that control how the flex items on the page are laid out: the main axis and the cross axis. By default, Flexbox is set up so the main axis goes from left-to-right (or the opposite, for languages that read right-to-left) and the cross axis flows top-to-bottom (shown above). Before you go memorising that, note that this can – and will – all change with the flex-direction property.

Fig 2  The main axis flipped with flex direction row reverse

The main axis flipped with flex-direction:row-reverse;

By default, Flexbox is set up with flex-direction: row; which means the items flow on the main axis from left-to-right, in a row. We can switch the main axis so it flows from right-to-left by using flex-direction:row-reverse (as shown above).

Fig 3  The main axis switched from horizontal to vertical with flex direction column

The main axis switched from horizontal to vertical with flex-direction:column;

To switch both the main axis and the cross axis, we change the layout to flex-direction:column;. This will alter the main axis and flex item flow from left-to-right to top-to-bottom, in a column (above). We can also start from the bottom and move up by flipping the main axis with flex-direction:column-reverse.

Centring items

One of the best things about Flexbox is that it allows you to align your content in any way you please – even vertical centring is an absolute breeze! There is often confusion surrounding Flexbox alignment, because there are three different properties that we use to modify the alignment of our flex items.

One reason for this is that these properties align the items along the main and the cross axis. So instead of asking, ‘how do I centre something vertically or horizontally?’ you must first establish which direction your axes are pointed, and then figure out which CSS property to use to properly align and centre your flex items on them.

In the next few examples, I’ll be attempting to perfectly centre my items. However, you should know that each of these properties has a number of alignment options. For a full list, I recommend keeping this CSS-Tricks flexbox reference handy.

The cross axis

Fig 4  align items center  will centre our items along the cross axis  which in our case is top to bottom

align-items:center; will centre our items along the cross axis, which in our case is top-to-bottom
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By default, flex items stretch across the entire flex container along the cross axis. If we want to centre items along the cross axis, we can use the align-items property on our flex container and set it to center (shown above).

In addition to stretch and center, we can also use flex-start and flex-end to anchor the items at the top and bottom respectively. Finally, we have baseline, which will align the items along the bottom (or baseline) of your text. This is extremely helpful when you are trying to align items with varying font sizes.

Justifying along the main axis

Fig 5  Justify content center  will centre our items along the main axis

Justify-content:center; will centre our items along the main axis

Now we have the centring working along the cross axis – top to bottom in our case – we need to get centring working across the main axis. For this, we use justify-content:center (shown above).

Just like with align-items, we can also use flex-start or flex-end, as well as space-between and space-around, which will evenly divvy up the remaining space between the elements. This is super-useful when working with grid layouts that don’t add up to 100 per cent of the margin and widths.

Just remember, if we switch from the default flex-direction:row; to flex-direction:column;, the main axis can change from left-to-right to top-to-bottom. When we switch to column, align-items becomes the horizontal alignment while justify-content becomes the vertical alignment.

Aligning multiple lines

While align-items and justify-content work great when you have a single row or column of content, things get a little trickier when you’re dealing with multiple lines of content as a result of using flex-wrap:wrap; on the flex container.

align-content works just like justify-content, but kicks in when we have multiple lines of content. By applying align-content:center; we can ensure that the lines will anchor in the middle of the cross axis and centre their elements from there.

Just like with justify-content, we can also use flex-start, flex-end, space-between and space-around. However, this time they refer to the space in-between the rows or columns of content, and not the flex items themselves.

Now, with just four lines of CSS, we have a bulletproof way of vertically and horizontally centring all direct children of a flex container.

.container {
align-items: center;
justify-content:center;
align-content:center;
flex-wrap:wrap;
}

Filling the space

So far, everything we have learned about alignment has to do with the flex container and how it aligns its children. With align-self it is possible to override the align-items property set on the flex container by individually setting align-self to flex-start, flex-end, center, baseline or stretch.

Another often misunderstood part of flexbox is how to work with grow, shrink and basis values. It’s helpful to once again throw away any ideas of pixel-perfect grids and embrace that flexbox is, well, flexible.

Each flex item can be assigned a flex-grow, flex-shrink and a flex-basis value. With these values we can indicate our ideal sizes, and then specify how the items should act in situations where there is extra, or not enough, space. From there, the items will just figure it out for themselves.

I like to think of these properties as:

  • flex-grow: How do I act when there is extra space available? How will the flex items divvy up the remaining space?
  • flex-shrink: How do I act when there isn’t enough room for all the flex items? Rather than overflow the container, who will give up part of themselves to make everything fit?
  • flex-basis: Instead of setting a definite width or a height on your element, ideally what width (as a row) or height (as a column) will it be?

Note that while it is possible to specify these properties individually, you will almost always be using the flex shorthand to specify the grow, shrink and basis values all at once. Check the videos at Flexbox.io for a more detailed description of the flex shorthand property.

Growing and shrinking

The idea is that we can set our ideal width or height with the basis value, and then when there is extra space available for the flex items, the flex-grow property will decide how much extra to take up. Similarly, when there is not enough space available, the shrink property will decide how much each element will give up (or ‘shrink’).

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The flex-grow and flex-shrink properties are unitless, proportional values. They describe how much – in relation to all the other flex items – the item will grow or shrink.

Let’s say we have two flex items: video and credits. We will set the video to flex:1 1 700px; and the credits to flex:3 3 300px;. Now the parent of both of these items is the flex container, and when it is 1000px wide things work out perfectly: the video takes up its 700px and the credits take up the other 300px.

What happens when the flex container is 1500px wide? We have an extra 500px to work with, so where does that go? That is where flex-grow kicks in. The video is set to 1 while credits is set to 3. That means of all the extra room, credits will take three times (375px) the amount of space the video will get (125px).

Similarity, what happens when our flex container is smaller than 1000px? Let’s say it’s 900px: how do the video and the credits act then? Unlike with floats, we don’t just break onto a new line, or scale them down with percentages. Instead, we use the flex-shrink property.

Since the credits have a flex-shrink of 3 and the video has a flex-shrink of 1, this means the credits will give up three times as much space as the video. So since we need to shave off 100px from somewhere, the credits will give up 75px, while the video container will only give up 25px.

Unknown navigation size

Let’s look at some common use cases of flexbox. If you have ever worked with a navigation in a CMS like WordPress, you’ll know that it can be hard to predict how many elements will be included in your navigation.

Evenly distributing the space between all the elements requires JavaScript. For example if you have three elements, each one should be take up 33.33 per cent of the width, while with five elements each one should take up 20 per cent.

Let’s take a look at this commonly seen code as an example:

<ul class="nav">
<li><a href="#">Home</a></li>
<li><a href="#">About</a></li>
<li><a href="#">Contact</a></li>
</ul>

With flexbox, we can easily create this navigation, and even make it responsive, all with just a few lines of CSS. All we need to do is to set our navigation container (usually an unordered list of items) to display:flex, and then each of the flex items to flex:1 or flex-grow:1;.

This will stretch the list items horizontally and fit them perfectly into the available width. The reason this works so nicely is that we set the flex items to grow 1, which means that when there is extra space left over, it will be divvied up evenly between all the items.

For more on this, and to learn how to size your navigation elements differently, make sure to watch the responsive navigation tutorial available on Flexbox.io.

Equal-height columns

Fig 6  align items center  will centre our items along the cross axis  which  in our case is top to bottom

align-items:center; will centre our items along the cross axis, which in our case is top-to-bottom

Have you ever wished that CSS had a height:as-high-as-the-highest-sibling property? We have all been there – we have three columns of content, all of which are different sizes (above). The content is dynamic and the site is responsive, so setting a fixed height on each one is out of the question, and a JavaScript fix isn’t ideal.

Earlier we learned that the default of align-items is stretch. This means the flex items will stretch to fit the parent flex container. And how is the height of the flex container defined? Almost always by the height of the tallest content box.

Let’s take the following markup, for example. If we render this out with floats and percentage widths, we will see the container is sized by the middle element and the other two are only as high as they need to be.

<div class="container">
<div class="box">
<p>I'm short</p>
</div>
<div class="box">
<p>I'm a pretty tall box that is the biggest</p>
</div>
<div class="box">
<p>I'm a medium sized box</p>
</div>
</div>

Fig 7  With flexbox  boxes stretch to fit the flex container and all become equal height

With flexbox, boxes stretch to fit the flex container and all become equal height

Now, if we simply use display:flex; on the flex container, and set each element to be 33.33 per cent with the flex-basis property, immediately the flex items stretch across the entire cross axis, regardless of how much content is in them (see image above).

.container {
display:flex;
}

.box {
flex: 1 1 33.33%;
}

Conclusion

I hope by now you see the value in learning how to use the Flexible Box module. While it won’t solve every issue you have with CSS, it’s an important tool every designer and developer should know, and have in their arsenal.

It has been a while since we have had anything this large come to CSS, and I’d argue it’s one of the tougher parts of CSS to learn. Just remember that you pushed though learning floats, so Flexbox is totally something you can master!

Must-have resources

What the Flexbox?!

‘What the Flexbox?!’ is a free 20-video training course I’ve created. In the first half of the course, each video introduces a new aspect of Flexbox. I’ve kept these nice and short, so you can reference them later when you need to brush up on a particular part. The second half of the course dives into a real-world example, detailing how we can use Flexbox to quickly and easily solve many of the common layout problems we face.

A complete guide to Flexbox

Once you get the hang of Flexbox, you can put the training materials aside. However, it’s helpful to keep a visual reference handy. This fantastic resource from Chris Coyier breaks down each of the 13 different Flexbox properties, showing which apply to the flex container and which apply directly to the flex items.

Flexbugs

Flexbox is not without fault, and like anything, there are a handful of cross-browser bugs and workarounds you should know about. Flexbugs outlines a range of known Flexbox bugs as well as offering possible fixes and workarounds.

Flexbox in 5 minutes

For a quick’n’easy introduction to the fundamentals of Flexbox, check out ‘Flexbox in 5 minutes’. It’s a step-by-step wizard that will guide you through how to create, style and change your first Flexbox-based layout.

Cellphone, internet outages reported across the U.S.

Cellphone, internet outages reported across the U.S.

TUCSON, Ariz. — If you’re having trouble making calls or connecting to the internet on your cellphone, you’re not alone.

CBS Tucson affiliate KOLD-TV reports several major cellphone providers — including Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile — were having service issues on Monday.

The website downdetector.com, which compiles users’ reports of outages, posted maps highlighting a number of different areas with problems:

Spectrum customers were also having difficulty Monday, CBS affiliate WNCN-TV in North Carolina reports. Officials from the company said a backbone fiber line was cut in the city of Wilmington and more than a dozen crews worked to repair the line.

The station also reports that Sprint customers were also affected which officials attributed to an issue with a local exchange provider.

A Verizon spokesperson issued a statement to WNCN explaining that a connectivity issue caused service interruption for some customers in the cities of Wilmington, Jacksonville and New Bern in North Carolina.

“Our engineers worked with our vendor partner to resolve the issue and service was restored by approximately 3:30 pm Eastern this afternoon,” Verizon said in a statement.

Why You Need a Living, Breathing Designer–Even If You’re Good at Squarespace

Why You Need a Living, Breathing Designer–Even If You’re Good at Squarespace

While website builders have made huge strides in the design world, agencies have been innovating to strive past.

Nowadays, if you ask anyone about building a website, they’ll most likely say “oh, you should use (Wix, Squarespace, etc.), I saw an ad for them on TV!”

Yes, when it comes to getting a website designed, the freelance designers and small agencies of the world are suddenly losing ground on one of their bread-and-butter assignments.

Granted, web design isn’t just a “plug-and-play” field as there’s a lot of requirements curtailed to a client’s needs. Whether they want something really minimalist or outlandishly beautiful, the nuts and bolts of their dream site usually aren’t served by these web builders. So, why do people still use them?

Of course, those that are looking for something like a redesign know why hiring a web developer is important; but the ones just starting out, going the cheaper route always seems like a good temporary fix. I don’t blame them, but establishing a foundation for your web presence goes way beyond your page.

And believe it or not, this puts design agencies in a great place to cash in.

The Unexpected Disruptor

When website builders first started to gain popularity, people in the web design world had somewhat mixed feelings. Some folks felt like the builders could never match the capabilities of agencies, thus making our shops the eventual go-to. Others felt like these things might push them out of a job.

What really was the driving catalyst for this debate came down to functionality. Could these things one day do everything an agency does? Do customers understand that ‘you get what you pay for’? I (as well as numerous other designers) can say that we’ve had at least one client say “Well, if a Squarespace is $10 a month, why would I pay you so much?”

I always shook my head at this notion, thinking they just didn’t understand what we did, or if it was even worth the hassle to explain. But eventually, I’d give in, which made pitching my services much better. In short, I knew if I wanted to survive, I had to step my game up.

Survival of the Fittest

At a certain point, I started to embrace the ‘website building’ clients. Of course, there was a little bit of a communication barrier regarding what exactly they wanted, but this was a quick way to build up an extensive range of ‘business card’ clientele. Even though I now had competitors that knew little to no code, I wasn’t too worried, as the market would sort itself out.

The thing I knew over the other folks that were just entering the market is that clients always ask for more. Yes, they’ll usually be happy with the one-pager you built out, but sooner or later the phone calls are going to start coming in:

“Hey, could you do X to our blog or change this page to be more branded? Is there any way you could set up a photo gallery for us? How about an e-mail signup?”

Almost every single person who’s worked in this industry has dealt with this, which is what makes us worthwhile. With how much people see online and then ask for it on their site, there’s no way a Squarespace or Wix could keep up with demand. Plus, web design is an art, and that’s just something you can’t replace.

Beyond just having something look beautiful, there’s a lot of elements to a website some clients overlook. Things like how your UX works, what’s the end goal of the design, and even going after an actual brand aesthetic instead of the same cookie-cutter look. Also, a lot of the interactive functions clients look for require a lot of coding, which is another avenue to making it work.

Final Thoughts

Website builders have no doubt left an indelible impression on the web design world, and quite frankly, their impact is here to stay. However, this is a gift and a curse to the industry, as it’s made a lot of shops either step their game up or change direction. If anything, this is one of the most exciting times to be a web designer as competition will only get more fierce, producing sites that are innovative in both design and functionality.

Yes, it’s the survival of the fittest world, but for some us, that means the spark of a new era.

 

8 Myths About WordPress You Can’t Afford to Ignore

8 Myths About WordPress You Can’t Afford to Ignore

You have probably heard about WordPress, but you may not have gotten all of the facts.

WordPress is the most popular CMS platform in the world, used on over 25% of websites on the Internet. It is considered to be the best among its competition.

Today, we are going to discuss some myths about WordPress which you can’t afford to ignore. Before choosing to use WordPress, like so many millions of other users have, it’s best to get the full story.

At the end of this post, you will feel completely free to start your business or personal blogs on WordPress and reap its benefits.

So, let’s get started and PROVE those myths about WordPress wrong!

1. WordPress Can Be Only Used For Blogging

Personally, this is the biggest myth about WordPress that I have heard. I really don’t know why people still believe that WordPress can only be used for blogging.

Thousands of successful corporate and eCommerce websites today are on WordPress. Yes, WordPress was born as a CMS for blogging, but it evolved to become the most powerful CMS in the world. It is now being used by top authorities in all types of businesses.

While most of WordPress plugins are used for customization, different post types, and other features, WordPress can be used for business websites, too.

WordPress can be used to build any kind of website. Whether you want to build an eCommerce store, a corporate website, or an online portfolio, WordPress is the best option.

Below are some big name sites built on WordPress:

  • TechCrunch
  • BBC America
  • Sony Music
  • Beyonce
  • The New Yorker
  • Bata
  • Xerox
  • Ford Social

Now, what other proof do you need?

2. WordPress is not secure

banner1

If WordPress is not secure, which CMS is 100% secure?

Unfortunately, small businesses are still very reluctant to set up their websites on WordPress because they feel it is not secured. This isn’t completely true.

Here, the problem of security doesn’t lie solely with WordPress. WordPress tries to make its site as secure as possible, but due to its popularity, it has become more prone to hackers.

It’s not just WordPress. This is a problem that affects other popular CMS as well. When you build a site on any CMS, it’s completely your responsibility to keep it secured by installing essential security plugins or get a third party service.

There are many other factors that affect the security of a site; even your web host is also a factor.

That’s why you should always go for a reliable web host. I always recommend WPEngine or CloudWays to people, because they use the latest technology to prevent your site from being hacked.

WordPress keeps rolling out frequent updates to make it sites secured, and it gets bigger and better by the day. If you’re a WordPress user, you will already know this.

Now, how you can you secure your WordPress website further?

If you’re just starting out, I would recommend you to install the following free security plugins:

  1. WordFence
  2. BulletProof
  3. iThemesSecurity

When the traffic of your WordPress site increases, you can move to a reputable third party service.

In addition to this, you need to backup your website regularly. Don’t rely solely on your web host to do the backups for you. You can install UpDraft Plus to take regular backups for your sites.

3. WordPress is Free

Aha… FREE. A word loved by all, isn’t it?

I also love the word ‘FREE’, but you should know what’s actually free, and what isn’t.

Yes, WordPress is free, and it isn’t.

WordPress.com is free, but WordPress.org is not.

When you build a website on WordPress.com, it becomes free since it is hosted on the WordPress servers. Your site runs on a subdomain of WordPress with limited features to work with.

And when you build a website on WordPress.org, which is a self-hosted WordPress blog, you’re hosting your website on a third party server instead of WordPress. When you host on WordPress.org, the complete responsibility of maintaining your website is now in your hands and not WordPress. You must ensure you do regular backups, fix every bug, and install essential plugins when necessary.

When you need to customize your dream website, but eCommerce plugins are not available in the WordPress directory, you may need to purchase your plugins from a premium WordPress club.WordPress is the most popular CMS platform in the world. Here are some popular WordPress myths which you can’t afford to ignore.

Not all WordPress themes in the WordPress directory are reliable. To be on the safe side, you need to go for a premium WordPress theme to build your website.

So what’s the real cost of running a WordPress website?

Domain:       $10/yr

Hosting:        $50/yr

Theme and Plugins: $300/yr (Optional)

Total: $360/yr

4. WordPress is complicated and not easy to Customise

WordPress, when compared to other CMS, is the easiest to customize. In the past, I tried to build an ecommerce store on Magento and it was really difficult to customize. But building that same eCommerce store on WordPress was really easy.

I also tried to build a forum on Pligg CMS and being a non-techie, I ended up shutting it down because it was a really difficult for me. But building a membership forum on WordPress was child’s play.

To do any customization in WordPress or make any changes, you don’t need to edit a single line of code. There are tons of WordPress plugins available to help you out with any additional functionality.

If you’re unable to find a suitable plugin, you can hire someone from sites like Elance, WPMatic, Freelancer, Fiverr, etc.

5. WordPress is not good for eCommerce websites

banner2

Before building my own eCommerce store on WordPress, I also had my doubts. When I started my research, I visited sites like Quora. In the comment section, when I didn’t find anyone recommending WordPress for an eCommerce site, I was shocked.

There were two reasons given for not using WordPress for eCommerce:

  1. WordPress is not secure.
  2. WordPress can’t handle a large number of products.

I’ve already discussed WordPress’ security issues and how to fix them.

Saying that WordPress can’t handle a large number of products is another big myth.

WooCommerce is a great free eCommerce plugin for WordPress which can easily handle about 2,000 products. Except, if you’re launching a series eCommerce site, 2,000 is still a relatively small number of products.

Case in point, here are some of the top eCommerce websites built on WordPress:

  • http://halliefriedman.com/shop/
  • https://citysurfshop.co.uk/
  • http://www.chopperskate.com/
  • http://fernwoodcoffee.com/

6. WordPress websites load very slow

As I said earlier, if you are building a self-hosted WordPress blog, maintaining it is completely your responsibility.

Some WordPress sites may load in milliseconds, while some WordPress sites may take much longer to load.

Improving the speed of your site involves technical approach and analysis. Optimizing your images, caching, etc., are some ways to increase the speed.

But if you’re just starting up, I would recommend you to go for a good quality host like WP Engine, as recommended above.

7. Bugs appear in WordPress

Bugs usually arise due to our carelessness or mistakes. Bugs may arise from installing faulty plugins, some free themes, or when codes in a theme are messed up.

If you find it difficult to fix a bug, you can get WordPress support.

The WordPress community is also available. Its forum has experienced developers and designers who are willing to help you.

If in the end, you don’t get a solution to fix the bug, you can hire a freelancer who would fix it at a reasonable cost.

8. WordPress sites are not responsive

It is completely wrong to say that WordPress sites are not responsive because it depends solely on the theme you are using. You can’t use a non-responsive WordPress theme and expect it to be responsive. WordPress is actually very responsive as far as CMS go.

Please feel free to share your views on the above myths about WordPress. Let’s discuss them in the comments!

P.S. For those of you who have never used WordPress, I am offering a Freemium Theme for you to test so you could know what it is to expect from the WordPress Dashboard. The Theme is Coup Premium WordPress Theme. You can test it for one week.

5 Common SEO Mistakes You Should Fix Before Your Next Audit

5 Common SEO Mistakes You Should Fix Before Your Next Audit

SHANNON WALSH MAR 23 2017

Want to get more for your money on your next SEO audit or site review? After two years of reviewing sites offering everything from dog food to process automation, (I still have no idea what that is either), I decided to put together this half-blog-post-half-PSA covering a few of the most common SEO mistakes or missed opportunities that you can start to address today. I see so many of the same things over and over when reviewing websites that unnecessarily hurt visibility and performance. These are very basic, SEO “101” and “201” things. I’m still not sure why I see them so often… but I do. So, here are five things I’d recommend you check before you hire an SEO agency for an audit or for long-term help. My hope in giving away the farm is that this will free you up to work with your SEO agency on the fun stuff like developing content hubs to drive serious SEO gains on the important topics for your business, and taking over answer boxes. I’ve even given you a free tool to check each one, so no excuses!

1. Check Server Response

Nonexistent URLs should always return in a 404 server response and an error page with helpful tips to send your audience on their way to find what they’re looking for. Not a 200 error page or a redirect to an error page.

The wrong server response can lead to a number of problems. First, it can waste server resources and drag down overall site performance. It can also waste “crawl budget” as Google and Bing will interpret broken links as legitimate ones and waste time crawling them over and over. Third, it can split link authority if external sources misspell or use the wrong link. Those are three things you want to avoid. Luckily, the good folks over at Ayima made a chrome plug-in called Redirect Path that I use frequently. Redirect Path makes it easy to ensure your server is responding correctly to nonexistent pages.

Here’s what you don’t want to see:

302 temporary redirectOr this:

Response code 200 for bad URLsThis is the only acceptable response for nonsense URLs:

404 response code shows correctly for bad URLs

2. Check for HTTP to HTTPS duplication

Did your site recently switch to HTTPS? Great! Can you still load HTTP versions of your URLs in a browser and get a 200 response? Not great!

With Google pushing HTTPS so heavily, a lot of sites are making the switch. However, one commonly overlooked step of this process is setting up a server-side redirect to send all HTTP traffic to HTTPS using a 301 redirect. If you miss this step, you essentially have two duplicate sites. Not good.

Another thing I see a lot is people redirecting to HTTPS using 302 redirects. 302 redirects are temporary, meaning your HTTP pages will remain in Google’s index for much longer. Know your redirects, people.

Even if you made the HTTP/S switch eons ago, but you can still load pages on your site under both versions you need to fix it. Secure or not secure, the other version should redirect to the correct one. You don’t need a tool for this, just plug in each version and if one doesn’t redirect to the other, set up a redirect rule to make it happen.

3. Set Expires Headers for Static Files

Browser caching for static files is a pretty easy site speed win that too many sites don’t utilize. To oversimplify it, setting expires headers to one month in the future means that when someone visits a page on your site, their browser will download and store static files like images and .js or .cssresources. This way when they return to your site within a one-month period or click back to the previous page the files will load instantly. It’s fewer requests for your server to handle and much faster for users.

But here’s the fun part: if you skip setting this window, the default result is that every time a user returns to your site their browser has to request the resources for the page all over again slowing down loadtime.

Usually you can set this for six to twelve months out, especially if your site doesn’t change very often. If you regularly change up the look of your site you’d want that expiry window to be much shorter. This article from the Moz blog does a good job of explaining when you should think twice about caching allthe files on your site, but still leverage it to improve site speed.

This is generally not difficult to do, but the actual implementation will vary based on your server setup so you’ll probably need the help of your dev team.

For most things site speed, I use an online tool called WebPageTest that will call out some easy site speed wins.

Pro Tip: Make sure you don’t just test the homepage! Product category pages and blog posts can reveal speed improvement opportunities that the homepage won’t. If you’ve already covered all that and want to get even geekier to improve site performance and SEO gains, we wrote a massive guide to site speedyou can use as a resource if you don’t have technical SEO nerds on retainer.

4. Check Search Console and Fix Broken External Links

Even at the SEO 101 level, you should know how important and impactful it is to have links from other sites pointing back to yours. That said, why would you ever let a link you’ve earned through PR or producing great content not give you the authority you deserve?

There are two major sources of broken external links. The first is when an external site links to yours, but the link was misspelled or otherwise incorrect. The second major source is when links on your site change locations without redirects in place. Typically we see this happen when a business changes directory or navigation structure. Regardless of how it happened, this can be a fantastic win and an easy fix in a lot of cases.

A free, easy way to check for these broken links is by logging into your Search Console account and using the “Crawl Errors” report. The data here isn’t perfect, but it does give you a good idea of URLs you might need to redirect. For example, if Google has found an old, now-archived page called widgetworld.com/blue with 100 external backlinks and you know the new location of that page is widgetworld.com/blue-widgets you can set up a 301 redirect to the valid page and regain the 100 links worth of authority in a single move. Your business may be the exception, but that seems like it’s a heck of a lot easier than trying to generate 100 new backlinks.

Pro Tip: You don’t need to redirect every URL you see here. Look for URLs with valuable backlinks to prioritize. You can even throw them in another link checking tool like Majestic (not free, sorry!) to double check Google’s data. And, of course, some pages you find through this exercise should simply be 404s like discontinued product pages for example.

5. Maximize the SEO Value of Images

In general, make sure you’re setting descriptive alt text for images on product pages, site pages and blog post hero images. We’ve known for a long time how valuable image optimization and Google’s image search are for driving organic traffic.

The single easiest way to get your images showing up here and ultimately bring people to your site is by using descriptive alt text. This is especially important if you are a in a vertical like retail or travel and have a lot of high-quality images that can create desire for your product. One of the longest-standing, and best free tools out there is the Web Developer plug-in which has an option that allows you to see all image attributes on a given page:

 

6 Security Tips If You Really Need to Use Public Wi-Fi on Your iPhone, iPad or Mac

6 Security Tips If You Really Need to Use Public Wi-Fi on Your iPhone, iPad or Mac

Deep down, we know that using an open, unsecured Wi-Fi connection is risky. But usually, we ignore that instinct. We think that it’s not going to happen to me, I don’t have anything to hide. Or we’re just too lazy to take the proper steps to protect ourselves. Sometimes there’s no other option but to use a free, open, unsecured Wi-Fi network. In that case, what do you do?

First of all, you just shouldn’t be using an open Wi-Fi network without some sort of security from your end. It is comically easy to drop in and monitor all sorts of activity with an open Wi-Fi. So before connecting to that free Wi-Fi in that coffee shop, here are the steps you should take and things you should know about.

1. Things to Never Do on a Public Wi-Fi

Firstly, if the only option you have is an unprotected public Wi-Fi and you don’t have any security measures in your device, here are the things you should never do on such a network.

  • Don’t shop online.
  • Don’t log in to your bank accounts or input any of your bank or card details, in any shape or form.
  • If the site is going to require you to entire personal data, or it’s going to expose the personal data to the network, don’t visit that site.

When you absolutely have to check your bank account or shop online when you’re traveling, it’s advisable you do so using your cellular data connection (either on your iPhone or iPad or by tethering to your iPhone). Just using your cellular data is much more secure than using an open Wi-Fi network.

2. Use a VPN

Using a VPN is the easiest way to protect your internet activities from all sorts of watchful eyes, including man-in-the-middle attacks. Install the VPN app from the service on your iPhone, iPad and Mac and enable it (for iOS devices, you’ll need to activate a profile for the service in Settings). Your internet traffic will now be encrypted and routed through a secure network (the servers of the VPN service you’re using) and someone who’s trying to monitor your actives won’t be able to peek in.

cloak vpn mac

But of course, the level of security you have depends on what kind of VPN service you use. Generally, it’s advisable to use a VPN service that charges you, and which doesn’t keep any logs itself. If you use an untrustworthy free service, instead of someone else watching you, it’s the VPN servers doing that themselves.

If you just can’t pay, we recommend using TunnelBear. The limited plan can be enough for when you want to securely shop. For completely free service, Opera is worth looking into.

cloak vpn iphone

Best option though is to pay for a trusted VPN service for a monthly or data plan. Something that covers all your Apple devices. Check out the following services.

One of the side effects of using a VPN is that you can get a proxy connection from an entirely different country. So you can enable and use sites and features that are not available in your country. For instance, you’ll be able to watch YouTube videos blocked in your country, or listen to Spotify even if your country isn’t supported.

3. Only Visit HTTPS Sites

safari security https

Any site that’s HTTPS as opposed to HTTP, is by default secured and has an encrypted connection. For browsing and reading articles on the web, visiting an HTTP site is fine but if you’re interacting with it in any shape or form – creating an account, shopping, make sure the site is HTTPS.

4. Use 2 Factor Authentication

iphone 2fa

When you enable 2 Factor Authentication for a service, you now need two things before you log in – something you know (your password) and something you have (one time password). We recommend that you enable 2FA for all the important service that have your personal or banking data – Google, Facebook, iCloud, bank and trading services and so on. So even if someone gets to know your password, they won’t be able to login to your account with a 2FA passcode that comes to your as an SMS or one that’s generated using Google Authenticator app.

5. Stop Devices from Automatically Connecting to Open Wi-Fi Networks

For your convenience, Apple has bundled a feature where as long as your Wi-Fi is enabled, it will constantly search for and automatically connect to either known or open Wi-Fi networks. When you’re at your home or work, that’s a great feature. But you don’t want your iPhone randomly connecting to an open hotel Wi-Fi network when you’re traveling.

iphone wifi settings

You should disable your Wi-Fi whenever you’re not expressly using it. If your iPhone has already connected to an open Wi-Fi, tap on the i icon and select Forget this Network.

Also, from the Wi-Fi section in Settings, enable the Ask to Join Networks option. This will prevent your iPhone or iPad from automatically connecting to open networks.

On the Mac, you’ll find the same option in System Preferences -> Network.

6. Buy A Better Data Plan

Then you’re traveling, it’s advisable to buy an unlimited or a plan with 5-10 GB of data. This way you will be able to get important work done by tethering to your iPhone. You won’t need to connect to unknown Wi-Fi networks and there won’t be able problems.

How Do You Manage Data While Traveling

One another thing we usually worry about, especially when tethering our iPhones, is the data consumption. You can use an app like TripMode to limit unnecessary data usage. Also, it’s recommended to periodically go in and check your cellular data usage in iPhone Settings.

How do you manage data usage when traveling? What kind of security protocols do you follow? Share with us in the comments below.

4 Tips That Will Prepare You for the Future of Search & SEO

4 Tips That Will Prepare You for the Future of Search & SEO
Clark Boyd

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The more things change, the more they stay the same.

We are experiencing a period of unprecedented flux in the search industry. But dig deeper, and there are some elements that hold stubbornly true.

Historically, search has been about Google and it has been about text. There has been a shift in this relationship, as voice-based digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa take hold, and search results become much more varied.

The way we approach search has also changed. Search is now central to most marketing teams and it encompasses a wide variety of skillsets. Everyone from the CMO to the creative team to the data analysis specialists has a vital role to play.

This provides a lot of food for thought for modern marketers. Enough for an all-you-can-eat thought buffet.

Just some of the big trends in our industry in 2017 are:

Voice search
Hyperlocal targeting
Personalized content
Visual search
Mobile-first indexing
Multimedia results
Personalized SERPs
Keyword-less search
It used to be so much simpler, right?

All of this can be disconcerting. So how can we stay on top of so much change?

If you react to every new, shiny update, you’ll fall into a trap. The faster our industry changes, the slower we should be in our decision-making. The choices we make now will shape how successful we are over the next few years, so it’s worth taking the time to get them right.

Search Strategy

There are some comforting constants within all of this exciting flux.

The act of searching has not changed; it depends on an accurate answer to fulfill its function. Search engines are getting better at judging which answer is the most relevant and for that, we should be grateful. The industry has a long way to go, but the path we are on is a constructive one.

Therefore, with one eye on the present and the other on upcoming trends, we can set ourselves up for short- and long-term search success.

Below are four tips we should all bear in mind as we prepare for the future of search.

1. Use Psychology & Technology to Shape Strategy

People don’t change as quickly as technology. Marketers should understand the psychology behind their audience’s actions.

These eternal marketing principles will take center stage once more as search grows in sophistication. It is in understanding the full breadth of potential interactions our customers can have with our brands that we can thrive in this new ecosystem.

The hardware used to find this information may change, along with the search engine used to power it. However, the user behind the query will have the same impulses and requirements they always had.

Sure, the form these queries take will advance in lock-step with technology. We have seen this with longer queries via voice search, for example. We will see this more and more as users tap icons rather than typing queries.

This is exactly why we shouldn’t chase shadows by targeting specific search queries.

Knowing which keywords led visitors to your site is useful to know. It always will be. But from a strategic standpoint, gaining insight into the intent behind that keyword will be much more valuable.

Search Psychology

Both quantitative and qualitative resources are required to reach this level of comprehension into consumers.

This is where we can use technology to our advantage.

Your company’s CRM data can be a goldmine. Even the humble survey still has a role to play.

If you want to know what people are thinking, ask them. Combine this with what you see in your analytics and CRO software to get an idea of what truly leads a customer either to engage or disengage with your brand.

Psychology is the foundation of a great search campaign. Technology enables us to create a stronger foundation than ever before.

2. Structure Your Site Around Topics

Taking this approach to research will provide you with a rounded view of your customers’ preferences and requirements. This then becomes a fantastic resource when you consider the structure of your website, as you can build topical hubs for semantically related content.

We have been talking about this way of structuring sites for quite a while now. The logic is sound: Map different sections of your website to different products and services and, within each, cover every point of the consumer journey with different landing pages. This lends itself to a URL structure that is great for search engines and users alike.

This can be extended to encompass your apps and social media profiles, should they be a more fitting home for certain types of content.

What this provides is a perfect platform to populate with a variety of content formats. Informational pages may benefit from videos while transactional pages require structured, clear answers to pressing questions.

Hierarchy

Let’s take as our example an insurance brand. Applying this approach, we would have separate sections for each type of insurance.

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We can consider the lead product page in each section to be the main content. This is then supported by supplementary content, which supports the main product page by adding further color and guiding users towards an informed decision.

Often these supplementary pages can be migrated from the blog, with some minor amendments. As a result, your product hub will cover everything from [what type of car insurance do i need?] to [get car insurance online].

This adds to your authority as a reputable resource and allows you to nest all related content within sub-folders under the main product.

Wherever the industry takes us in the next five years, this approach to site structure will have merit.

3. Think Beyond Google

Searching implies the requirement for an answer. The transmission of those answers may differ by channel or search engine or by media format, but search is just a vehicle for the information.

In fact, search engines only have access to our information once we choose to put it in their hands. They are not the creators of the content, but they form an essential link between demand and supply.

Google has been a dominant presence in our landscape, although competition is increasing as user behaviors differentiate. And yet, this is driven by a core truth: People are simply seeking new information.

This is important to remember as we ponder the rise of Amazon as an e-commerce search platform, or as Pinterest’s visual search technology evolves. Yes, we should learn how to code Skills for Amazon’s Echo. Undoubtedly, we should know how Pinterest’s “similar items” feature functions.

Nonetheless, this should not come at the cost of creativity. The age of generating content just to fit how we think Google ranks results is long gone. If we try to manipulate our way into a wider array of search engines and media formats all at once, we will lose sight of what is important. Moreover, we’ll have no time left to create anything of worth.

Creativity

This new era will reward genuine creativity and research over ‘quick win’ tactics. The future of search should actually be much more unified, from a strategic perspective, in the sense that we require one cohesive plan across all of those touchpoints.

That has not always been the case; often we have had to make do with the acquisition stage, which is harder to deliver on when you don’t really shape the awareness or consideration phases.

Where we need to upgrade our skills is in the area of content discoverability. Whether it is through Schema.org markup or creating Actions for Google Home, our focus should be on making it as easy as possible for any digital assistant or search engine to find and serve our content.

4. Devise a Flexible Measurement Strategy

We need to measure all of the above in a more nuanced way, bearing in mind that personalization is still an untapped opportunity.

Much has been made of personalization in search for a few years now, but true personalization is still on the horizon. This will be great for marketers, no doubt.

Personalization will, however, present us with new measurement challenges.

Search results will never be static. So how can we measure our ranking performance?

Furthermore, we need to know how to evaluate the success of our content across media platforms and social networks.

The key point in this area is to accept the importance of flexibility in a measurement strategy. The expectations of a video embedded within an informational page will differ greatly to those of a product launched on Amazon. A piece of content that gets links will be different to one that gets social shares, typically, and those will differ greatly from content that converts customers in volume.

Flexibility

Therefore, the communication of our measurement strategy is just as important as its component parts.

We need all parties to buy into the fragmented nature of search as we move away from being a pure, direct response channel.

This can be a very fruitful approach for businesses and may end up being a more varied and satisfying role for search marketers.

Of course, we need clarity in our data to achieve any of this success.

Hopefully that data will be shared by all digital assistants, which will give us insight into performance across devices.

We should also expect Google to split out voice queries within AdWords and Search Console (a feature they have tested already), which will at least provide a little transparency within voice search performance, too.